Impressions: Guardians of Middle Earth (PSN)

I bought Guardians of Middle Earth back when it first came out, and unfortunately I haven’t had the time to spend with it lately. I have played a fair bit of it, so I wanted to take some time – in honor of it being free for Playstation Plus members – to compose my thoughts on it.

Guardians of Middle Earth is a ‘Massively Online Battle Arena’ game, much like League of Legends, Heroes of Newearth, and Defense of the Ancients. The MOBA genre has been an almost exclusively PC genre due to the level of multitasking and control depth not really being viable on a controller. Guardians of Middle Earth seeks to overcome this limitations by making some concessions and removing certain traditional aspects of the genre.

This game, as the title suggests, takes place in Middle Earth – the world of the Lord of the Rings – and features many of Tolkien’s characters. While the meat of the roster is, of course, the most famous characters – Gandalf, Galadriel, Sauron, Legolas, etc – many lesser known characters also have made their mark on this game. Reading through the lore segments is a great way to expose yourself to some of the lesser known heroes in Tolkien’s works. The setting works fairly well – although it is truly strange to see Sauron and Gandalf working side by side – allowing them to have a pre-established lore that most people are at least somewhat familiar with to work off of. And thanks to a partnership with New Line Cinema, you can expect characters to resemble their movie counterparts.

You see, in a MOBA game, each player controls one character(in this game called a Guardian, in others called a Hero, a Champion, a God, or other names besides). You are placed into two teams – usually of 5 – and are tasked with taking out the enemy’s base. Supporting you are automatically-generated waves of soldiers who will push down various lanes to try to attack the enemy base. Killing these soldiers, or the enemy Guardians, awards experience you can use to level up and you have to work as a team to gradually push the enemy back further and further into their base until you can eventually kill it.

Typically a MOBA game will give you money when you kill enemies as well, allowing you to buy items from an in-game store to get stronger and adapt to the enemy team. Guardians of Middle Earth abandons this concept in order to prevent the need for a store that would probably be incredibly unresponsive using a controller. In place of items, outside of the game you have to choose a set of ‘runes’ that will provide you with benefits similar to items that just straight up unlock as you level. Since there are no items, there is also no need for currency of any sort – within the game anyways. You do earn a form of currency when you play that can be used outside of the game to acquire new Guardians or other gems.

Overall this break from tradition is relatively successful, creating a system that works well enough within the environment. The game plays fairly well, is fun, the controls are all responsive and intuitive, and it is a pretty good experience. As far as it goes. The real problem with it is that this system just doesn’t offer enough depth to be compelling in the long term. It is fun for a few games, something that is entertaining to do to pass the time, but not something I forsee ever becoming a contender in the genre. But with a well-known setting and intuitive mechanics, Guardians is the type of game that I would recommend if you’re looking for a little break from the more serious MOBA games – or if you’re looking for a nice light taste of the genre to see if you’d enjoy it in the long run.